This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.
THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT
Winner's Share: $3.6M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the winner
Location: Dublin, Ohio
Course: Muirfield Village Golf Club
2022 champion: Billy Horschel
Before there were designated events, there was the Memorial. Most of the top players have come to Central Ohio year after year after year, not to play for a $20 million purse but as an homage to the tournament's host, Jack Nicklaus. Of course, now they get to do both.
The Memorial annually ranks among the strongest fields in golf outside of the majors, along with the Arnold Palmer Invitational the Genesis Invitational. It's no surprise why: Their hosts are Nicklaus, Palmer and Tiger Woods.
So it might be a little hard to see much difference in this year's Memorial, but it is a designated event with that enormous purse to be generously split among the star-laden 120-man field. All but five of the top 50 players in the world who are eligible and not injured will take part in what will be the final U.S. Open tune-up -- yes, there's another major in two weeks -- for most of them.
Scottie Scheffler and 2020 Memorial champion Jon Rahm will resume their tango for No. 1 in the world, though there really is a third player in the equation now. And, no, it's not No. 3 Rory McIlroy. LIV Golf's Brooks Koepka is coming off a win at the PGA Championship after finishing second to Rahm at the Masters. Of course, Koepka is not here this week. But No. 4-ranked and two-time Memorial winner Patrick Cantlay is, along with defending champion Horschel, who moved to a career-high 11th in the world with last year's win but since has plummeted to No. 35.
The five players missing are No. 6-ranked Max Homa, No. 12 Tony Finau, No. 23 Tommy Fleetwood, No. 28 Justin Rose and No. 45 Adrian Meronk. As a reminder, golfers are allowed to skip one designated event this season without being penalized in the form of losing or losing eligibility for PIP (Player Impact Program) bonus money.
We want to give a shoutout to one other guy. No, not Michael Block, who he takes a week off before resuming his journey at the RBC Canadian Open. It's Stewart Cink, who just turned 50 and finished in solo third last week in his Champions Tour debut -- and in a major, the Senior PGA Championship. He's back for his 26th Memorial. He's missed only three cuts and has totaled six top-10s. Cink is priced at $6,300.
This will be the 48th edition of the Memorial, which debuted in 1976 when Nicklaus was 35 years old and still winning majors. Nicklaus is now 83 and just three years removed from being part of a huge renovation of the Muirfield Village course. It didn't lose its teeth, as last year it ranked as the eighth-hardest course of the PGA Tour season.
The 2022 official Golf Course Superintendents sheet for the Memorial described the course changes as such: They "included rebuilding of all 18 greens, relocation of several greens, contour changes on greens, rebuilding bunkers, leveling and seeding tees, relocating several tees, and renovating and seeding fairways."
That was an enormous undertaking and, in the process, they added 100 yards to an already long track. For this year, they added another 38, bringing the distance to the precipice of 7,600 yards.
While much has changed of late, it's really the same course in the sense that it's still a Nicklaus course, one that will expose any weakness a golfer has.
In some ways, Muirfield Village was and still is the perfect golf course. No, it's not St. Andrews, it's not Augusta, it's not Pebble Beach. We don't mean it like that. As Nicklaus' signature design, it demands a golfer use all facets of his game, use every club in his bag. While Nicklaus always put a premium on driving in his playing days, everything about Muirfield gets harder later. The holes get harder closer to the green. The back nine is harder than the front, with the hardest holes generally among Nos. 16, 17 and 18. The closing three-hole stretch doesn't have a cutesy animal nickname like so many courses, but the 200-yard 16th, 485-yard 17th and the 480-yard 18th all play over par and 18 was the hardest hole on the course last year, as it usually is. The bentgrass greens are small, averaging 5,000 square feet. Complicating matters are the 68 bunkers and water on 13 holes. The easiest path to victory is to score on the par-5s, none of which reaches 590. The par-3s have always been brutal, with three of them 200+ yards. Seven of the 10 par-4s exceed 450 yards. The 472-yard 10th was the second-hardest hole on the course last year.
With an invitational gathering of only 120 golfers like last week at the Charles Schwab, more than half the field will make the cut. At Colonial, 72 did, or 60 percent of the field. It's another good opportunity to take some gambles on lower-priced options, maybe go with a top-and-bottom approach, as a golfer will have to beat only 50 or so guys to make the weekend, unlike maybe 90 in a field of 156. Further, Nicklaus issues berths to some lesser guys: top amateurs, money leaders from international tours and others. More on lineup construction: If deciding between two similar guys, we wouldn't find fault with picking the guy starting at No. 1 on Thursday as opposed to No. 10. The front is no cakewalk beginning with a 490 par-4, but it's easier than the back. Getting off to a good start can boost momentum, just like getting off to a bad start can snowball the wrong way.
As for the weather, the golfers could be looking at the hottest tournament of the year, with highs around 90 all four days. There's almost zero chance of rain and the winds look quite moderate, under 10 mph.
Fun Memorial factoid: As we like to note every year, the winner of the inaugural tournament back in 1976 was none other than the lovable Roger Maltbie, for the third of his five PGA Tour wins, in a playoff over Hale Irwin.
Annual Memorial honoree: This year's honoree is Hall of Famer, three-time major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart Larry Nelson. The 75-year-old Nelson won 10 PGA Tour events, including a U.S. Open and two PGA Championships. He played on three Ryder Cup teams, winning his first nine matches before losing one. He went 5-0-0 in his 1979 debut.
Key Stats to Winning at Muirfield Village
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green/Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-3 Efficiency 200-225 yards, Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards, Par-5 Efficiency 550-600 yards
2022 - Billy Horschel
2021 - Patrick Cantlay
2020 - Jon Rahm
2019 - Patrick Cantlay
2018 - Bryson DeChambeau
2017 - Jason Dufner
2016 - William McGirt
2015 - David Lingmerth
2014 - Hideki Matsuyama
2013 - Matt Kuchar
Here's what know statistically from the past two years after the major course overhaul: The importance of Strokes Gained: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green remain strong. Nine of the top-15 on last year's leaderboard ranked in the top-15 in SG: Approach and 12 of the top-15 ranked in the top-15 in SG: Tee-to-Green. Driving distance and accuracy mattered little. As we said, the holes get harder later. Putting wasn't quite as impactful as Approach and Tee-to-Green, but seven of the top-15 on the leaderboard ranked in the top-15 in SG: Putting. Two years ago, the top-8 on the leaderboard ranked 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 23rd and 25th in Approach. In T2G, they ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 12th and 25th. The two 25s were both Homa, and he countered that by ranking third in the field in putting, best among those top-8 finishers. Also in 2021, that was the year that Rahm was forced to withdraw with a six-shot leader after 54 holes upon testing positive for COVID-19. Rahm's stats were stricken, but he had gained an incredible 21 shots total on the field through three rounds, 15 of them from tee to green, nine on approach alone, and about 5 1/2 putting. His driving accuracy was 80 percent in what would've been one of the most dominating performances on Tour in years -- had it been completed. Last year, Horschel ranked first in the field in greens in regulation and Tee-to-Green, third in Around-the-Green and 13th in Putting. Golfodds.com put the over/under on the winning score at 274.5, which is 13.5 shot under par and the same as last year's number. Horschel won at 13-under.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Scottie Scheffler - $11,300 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +600)
Scheffler's putting of late has been alarming. He could've won both the PGA Championship and the Charles Schwab with anywhere near decent putting. That's how good his tee to green game has been. It's been otherworldly. So even though he needs a lot of improvement on the greens, we saw in the Championship Profile how closely success at Muirfield Village has aligned with Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Scheffler finished third here two years ago.
Jon Rahm - $11,000 (+750)
Rahm has won here once and would've won a second time if not for that positive COVID-19 test. This could be the week we see Scheffler and Rahm duel down the stretch on Sunday, maybe in the final pairing.
Patrick Cantlay - $10,500 (+1000)
Cantlay has not won in 2023, though he has had three top-5s, including one at Tiger's tournament and another at Arnold Palmer's. He's won here twice -- yes, once with an asterisk, in the year Rahm had to withdrew. Cantlay also finished third last year.
Xander Schauffele - $10,200 (+1200)
After a bit of a slow start to the year for him, Schauffele has been sniffing the winner's circle of late -- fourth at the RBC Heritage, runner-up at the Wells Fargo. He also was 10th at the Masters and 18th at the PGA. They key for Schauffele could be the par-3s. He ranks only 80th in this field over the past 24 rounds in par-3 200-225 yard efficiency.
Tier 2 Values
Tyrrell Hatton - $9,300 (+2200)
Surprising as it was for us to see, Hatton ranked No. 1 overall in our model -- yes, higher than Scheffler, Rahm, you name it. He has been great the past two months-plus, with four top-5s, plus a tie for 15th last time out at the PGA. Hatton ranks in the top-15 in this field in every key stat over his past 24 rounds. That's pretty remarkable to be that good all across the board. He's played this tournament just once, tying for 33rd in 2019.
Rickie Fowler - $8,500 (+3500)
We're running out of ways to say that Fowler is playing amazingly well this season. He was sixth last week at Colonial, moving to No. 46 in the world rankings. He's had three top-10s at the Memorial and was 11th two years ago. As with Schauffele, the one concern is with the long par-3s -- over his past 24 rounds, Fowler is statistically ranked outside the top 100 in this field of only 120.
Sahith Theegala- $8,400 (+5000)
Theegala played the Memorial for the second time last year and tied for fifth. He landed at No. 13 in our model, with no real weakness in any key stat this week. Theegala didn't have great weeks at either the Wells Fargo or PGA, but he did make the cut, something he almost always does.
Adam Scott- $8,000 (+4500)
Scott has not missed a cut since the PGA -- last year's PGA. Pretty remarkable. He hadn't had any high finishes in 2023 until recently, when he had top-10s at the Wells Fargo and Byron Nelson. Scott has had some good results at Muirfield Village, notably a runner-up in 2019.
Tier 3 Values
Russell Henley - $7,900 (+5000)
Henley has had top-20s in five of his past six starts, and that's including a top-5 at the Masters. He's had a couple of top-10s at the Memorial, notably a tie for seventh in 2020. Henley statistically remains a bad putter, but he's been better of late, which is why he's had all those high finishes.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,800 (+11000)
There's always a danger in going with a guy who won just last week. But Grillo has been so good for weeks now, and he didn't seem to overly celebrate this win at Colonial; he seemed very levelheaded about it. He's had a couple of good results here -- 11th in 2016, ninth in 2019. It should be of little surprise that Grillo landed at fifth in our model -- actually tied for fifth with Schauffele.
Matt Kuchar - $7,500 (+7500)
This will be Kuchar's 17th Memorial. He's had seven top-10s and missed only three cuts. He won it way back in 2013. Kuchar has not had great results here in recent years, though he's been a resurgent golfer in 2023. He has shorter odds than Grillo for a reason. Kuchar landed at No. 10 overall in our model.
Ryan Fox - $7,100 (+13000)
Even after consecutive top-25s at the PGA and Charles Schwab, which followed near-top-25s at THE PLAYERS and Masters, there is not much belief in Fox. He's up to 41st in the world, earned Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour and has been showing he belongs. Yet he's almost in the $6000s. Fox comes in at No. 30 in our model, which is pretty good down here. He's been especially good at the long par-4s, ranking third in this field over the past 24 rounds in par-4 450-500 yard efficiency. There are seven such holes at Muirfield Village.
Adam Svensson - $6,900 (+15000)
Svensson made eight of his past nine cuts, missing only at the Masters. The fact that he's been able to do that while being one of the shorter drivers on Tour speaks to the rest of his game. He's played this tournament just once, tying for 45th last year.
Eric Cole - $6,900 (+25000)
Cole has been up-and-down since he burst upon the scene with a playoff loss to Chris Kirk at the Honda. He's missed five cuts since then. The thing is, his good weeks have been great and they've been very recent: fifth at Mexico, 23rd at the Byron Nelson, 15th at the PGA. That put Cole at No. 15 in our model, and 10th in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the past 24 rounds.
Austin Eckroat - $6,600 (+30000)
Eckroat has really been coming on of late: runner-up at the Byron Nelson, fifth in Puntacana and 16th last week at the Charles Schwab. He ranked 59th in our model -- not great, but inside the cutline. Eckroat's big strength has been those long par-4s, ranking 10th in the field over the past 24 rounds.
Danny Willett - $6,300 (+35000)
Willett is back for his fifth straight Memorial. He missed the cut last year but had two near-top-25s 2019 and 2021. He's able to navigate Muirfield Village in large part because he has an excellent short game. Willett has missed three cuts in a row this season, which is far from optimum, but the model says he's No. 48 in the field, so here we are.
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